Crème de la Crime
Murder has always always
popular - both in the real world and and in the world of
fiction. And not just murder, but blackmail, robbery, fraud,
kidnapping, extortion, smuggling, counterfeiting, hijacking,
vice, burglary - and a thousand other crimes and misdemeanours.
It's all bad stuff, but
fascinating stuff, guaranteed to get the pulse racing,
the hair crackling, and the door bolts clocking into place
- which is exactly what Crème de la Crime, a relatively
new arrival on the volatile and unpredictable publishing
scene, is hoping to do.
Lynne Patrick is the owner
and managing editor; a woman with both hands on the cosh
of criminal contentment and a very clear idea of whose blood
is going to be spilled on the carpet of a literary genre
that's older than print itself.
Twenty straight questions
returned twenty straight answers. Read. Absorb. Learn. Submit.
The company is actively looking for stories of dirty deeds
Check out their website
and see if you've got a little murder in your own soul (or
any criminal tendencies whatsoever) that you can work out
between the pages of a small, hardboiled, high tension manuscript.
Hello Lynne, tell
Crème de la Crime
in 25 words or less.
small, flexible, independent and fast-moving. We publish
up to six titles a year, high-quality original crime fiction
aimed at discerning readers.
Is there a target or typical age group of your market?
No target; no typical reader that I’m aware
of. Our list is as eclectic as a crime list can be. One
fan I’m in regular touch with is in her 80s; another is
What are the definite no-nos and yes-yeses for the books
you’re most interested in?
The only definite no-no is length: anything
under about 68,000 or over 80,000 words. That’s not only
a practical consideration to do with production costs; it’s
also where we place ourselves in the market – books for
a train journey or flight rather than a fortnight’s holiday.
Other than that, we just have to love it. There are
detailed guidelines on our website, but rules are made to
be creatively broken.
Has crime fiction reached a plateau in terms of themes
and originality? Or are their still new islands of intrigue
I think serial killers and levels of goriness
and criminal ingenuity have gone about as far as they can
without losing credibility. Maybe we should be thinking
about crime novels without bodies? A well-planned heist?
An inventive conman? Crime doesn’t have to mean murder.
de la Crime
really seeking British only writers? Or are you looking
for international talent?
We’re certainly not prejudiced! The fifth
book we published was by an Australian author. But our main
markets are the UK and the USA, and we rely on our authors
to be their own publicists, so if they’re based elsewhere
it could impact on sales. And if the books don’t sell, we
cease to function at all.
How has political correctness impacted on modern
Not at all, I hope. Women are no longer the
ones who make the sandwiches and cry ‘Hay-elp’; and the
police have to behave better towards women and minorities,
in real life as well as in fiction. But both those factors
are a rebalancing of society, not political correctness.
Where excessive PC attitudes impact on the story, good authors
use it to advantage.
Are there any crime topics or areas you will not handle?
I won’t touch gratuitous violence. It has
to be part of the storyline.
Writers are becoming increasingly frustrated with mainstream
publishing companies who are less and less willing to take
chances. How, if at all, can smaller publishing houses such
as yourselves help significantly address this problem and
re-balance the market?
Actually, it’s not true that mainstream (by
which I assume you mean large) publishing houses don’t take
chances. Someone had to be the one to publish the first
family saga/chick-lit/serial killer story; and at least
one of the top houses has an imprint which only takes new
authors – and some pretty risky stuff from them, too. It’s
all a matter of perception. We’re too small to make much
of a dent in people’s perceptions, though we do try to publish
at least one debut a year. Larger houses publish far more.
Do you accept unagented authors?
Only one of our authors is agented. As a
rule, agents don’t like us much; we don’t pay five-figure
advances (in fact we don’t pay advances, period) which they
can take their slice of up front. They have to wait to see
how successful the book is – just as we do!
Can you explain the differences between how male and
female writers handle crime fiction?
No. I haven’t really noticed any. Some of
our women authors write about male protagonists, and vice
versa. The ratio of men to women authors on our list reflects
the submissions we receive.
As the demographics of Britain changes, are we likely
to see very different styles of crime fiction with, for
instance, titles such as Murder Most Muslim, or
The Polish Detective?
Quite possibly! Bring it on!
You probably receive submissions that range between huge
extremes in terms of quality of writing and plots. Without
naming names, can you give us some sense of the best and
publish the best, so I don’t mind naming names there! The
worst? I rarely get beyond the covering letter when there
are three typos and a missing apostrophe in its opening
para. The main problem with plots is that they don’t get
started soon enough. We ask for the first 10,000 words;
by the end of the extract we should have met all the main
players and the crime should be well under way. The most
common problem we encounter (apart from the three typos
and missing apostrophe) is 9500 words of back story and
scene-setting in which nothing actually happens.
Who are your main competitors?
Um… every publisher with a crime list.
You charge £25 for feedback on submissions: a subject that
is largely covered on your website. Are you saying that
you give no feedback whatsoever on rejected manuscripts?
And if not, why not?
Publishers don’t. They can’t. Open that door
a crack and nothing else gets done. I don’t know of any
publisher who offers feedback, even on a paid-for basis.
We made the decision to do it because we want to encourage
inexperienced writers – and what we provide is well worth
the £25. Occasionally, if a manuscript almost works and
we think it could be made to work for us, we send the author
away to redraft with a few pointers to move the process
Are you looking exclusively for up-to-the-minute
crime fiction? Or would you, for example, accept anything
from a Stone Age mystery to a murder set significantly in
We already have a historical strand, and
our first title ever (A Kind of Puritan by Penny Deacon)
was futurecrime, set 50 years hence. We’re happy to look
at submissions from any era, past, present or future. It
just has to be sharp, well written and totally engaging
How difficult is it for stand-alone adventures - as opposed
to novels that feature a serial hero - to get a publishing
deal with yourselves?
Every debut starts off as a standalone; if
we love it and there’s room on the list, we publish it.
If it proves successful and the author wants to develop
the character – as several have - we’re not going to pass
up a good thing.
How often do you see a manuscript that, in its current
form, is unacceptable but nevertheless has a certain spark
of originality and style that you feel can be fanned into
a satisfying little flame? Or are all, or at least most,
submissions pretty much beating the same bush?
In general, we simply don’t have the time
or resources to work with an author through draft after
draft. The first has to be pretty close to publishable;
‘a certain spark’ isn’t enough. Your second premise isn’t
true at all; no two are ever alike. Some are great stories
but not very well written; others read as smooth as cream
but haven’t much plot. But they’re all different.
Do you notice distinct trends in manuscript submissions
that correspond to current media issues, such as knife-crime
or terrorism or the state of the economy? And if so, how
do you feel about that?
Not so far – but I don’t think we’d want
it. Topicality is a two-edged sword; there’s always a significant
time-lag between submission and publication, so different
issues could be making the news by the time the book’s in
What’s the crime fiction equivalent of the perfect
Um… a short story? Other than that, I’m not
sure there is one. And perfection is a matter of opinion.
de la Crime
plan on becoming big, or staying as a smaller, more focussed
While I own it,
Creme de la Crime
will remain small enough to allow me to keep a firm hand
on the tiller. I wouldn't want it to grow into something
remote and impersonal.
Meanwhile, here are
some of my You Tube videos that might be of interest to you.
Hope you enjoy them.
Mr Edit. Let's talk about dialogue
Mr Edit. Pitching fiction to a literary
Mr Edit. 5 Minute Fiction Fix.
Mr Edit. Let's talk about tautology.
Links for writers
& Editors. Here's where you can check out the credentials
of literary agents and publishers. A must for any writer.
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Writing Blog. Lots of useful posts on all aspects of writing,
both for print and online, plus a guest post for anyone who
wants to make a contribution. Check it out.
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